2004 Iditarod Sketch Pad

Jon & Jona Van Zyle's exclusive sketches, stories from the trail

Lighting the way
2004 Iditarod Poster
Jon Jona Van Zyle
Jon & Jona Van Zyle
Sneaking Out
2004 Mush Poster

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Main Page Meet Jon & Jona Introduction Bootie Call Drop Bag Delivery Day Vet Check Jr. Iditarod
3/7 Iditarod Restart 3/8 Trail Notes 3/9 Rohn to Takotna 3/10 Takotna a.m. 3/10 Takotna p.m.
3/11 Takotna 3/14 Unalakleet 3/15-16 Unalakleet 3/16 Unalakleet
3/17 Unalakleet to Nome 3/19 Nome 3/20 Nome Finish Line Group Photo
Jona's Reflections

March 15 | March 16

Monday, March 15, 2004 - Unalakleet

Up at 7:00 a.m. and the rest of the gang is still sleeping. A few quiet moments to myself is nice. I'm enjoying my gang of fellow travelers, but I'm also starting to identify with the gypsies in those traveling road shows.

A family of Grey Jays, also called "Camp Robbers", has found us. They're already exploring all of our food totes stacked on the cabin porch--our Alaskan refrigerator. These charming, or annoying, depending on your point of view, little birds are fearless about searching for food. With just a little coaxing they were taking pieces of muffin from my gloved hand.

I've seen so few birds on our trip so far, just Ravens and not many of those. I find the Jays' antics quite enjoyable.

After breakfast Paul make a quick getaway from the cabin, flying to Unalakleet to ferry our media crew up the trail. We watched a few teams quietly pass the cabin as they moved to the checkpoint. Jon and I opted for taking a snowmachine on the river and following the race trail to Unalakleet.

Last night after dark Donna and her son, Jay, saw a Snowy Owl take a Snowshoe Hare just ahead of their snowmachine.  I'm sorry I missed it. It's interesting that I put a Snowy Owl design on Ellie's Unalakleet drop bag!

Jon and I rode one snowmachine towing a sled with a couple of people. Jay and Morgan took the other machine and towed Megan on skis. We were picking up dropped dog booties on the run to town.  At a $1.00 a dog bootie, it's hard to pass them up.   It's also funny that we feel the need to collect them because our Siberian Husky team hardly ever uses them.

Temperature wise we were comfortable until we hit the open tundra on the coast and the wind.

You could paint this area with four color choices: Titanium White, Payne Grey, Burnt Umber and Acura Red. The tundra is snow covered with some windblown dried grasses and stunted spruce. Sunsets and sunrises add the color, orangey pinks to the sky and a blush to the snowy rounded mountains. Occasionally black Ravens cut the sky with their aerial acrobatics.

On our way into town we passed Jeff Schultz heading out by snowmachine to catch teams by Old Woman Cabin. We buzz over to the checkpoint to see what's happening. John Barron and Ray Redington's teams were resting in straw but not as comfortably or as happily as they'd been on sunny days.

Cooking the dogs' supperWe saw a relaxed looking Sonny Linder, who had just made the decision to scratch. His team was getting low on dogs and the remaining team members were looking tired and sore. Sonny's been a serious contender for a lot of years and it's hard to see him have to scratch.

Our afternoon was spent visiting with Joel and Olga Oyounick, long time friends of Ellie's grandmother, Eleanore. Joel is the pastor of the Convenant Church. Olga does beautiful beadwork and skin sewing.  Her beaver fur hats and wolf face mitts are creatively lovely.

Walking around the town of about 850 people was fun. The strong winds have blown and drifted the big quantities of snow to roof height. Wandering the streets lined with 10-15 foot walls of snow was akin to walking through a maze. Snowmachines are the main means of transportation and everyone of almost every age is either driving or riding. Unalakleet also has a surprising number of automobiles for its 30+ miles of road.

We dined with a gang at the Oyounick home and then purchased some pies from the Pie Social at the church to take back to our cabin.

Ellie is out of Kaltag and should arrive here in Unalakleet in the morning. I think we're going to try to be in Nome to see the first team arrive but we'll see what tomorrow will bring.


Tuesday, March 16, 2004 - Unalakleet

20 degrees, snow squalls and gusty winds.

Ellie and team arrived in Unalakleet at 7:20 a.m. She's down to 12 dogs but they're allWarm Water looking good and resting well under their colorful blankets.   She and her travelling companion will probably head out between 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Her face is burned and blistered and looks like she might be allergic to the sun. She's a bit bleary-eyed but her spirits are good.

I'm not sure what we'll do today because of the weather but I'll keep taking notes.

The air is filled with chirping snow buntings blowing around in the swirling snow, so well camouflaged it's the voice of the snow.


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For more information about Ellie and her home at Ultima Thule Lodge you can visit their web site at www.ultimathulelodge.com

More information about Ellie Claus can be found on the Iditarod web site www.iditarod.com

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2004 Jon & Jona Van Zyle
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